By K.N. Pandita
Former ‘Prime Minister’ of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary is on two-day visit to Kashmir. It is a private visit to attend the marriage function of the son of his local friend. But being a political heavyweight in PoK, Sultan Mehmood’s visit to Kashmir is more significant than what meets the eye. He has himself described his Kashmir visit as one of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan. Though he has not indicated any definite schedule of meeting with local political leaders either of mainstream or separatists and secessionists, yet he has not closed his doors to anybody wanting to see him. The former PM of PoK expressed his thanks to the Indian government for allowing him a visa to visit India. In Kashmir he has taken time to visit some tourist places like Dal Lake, Hazratbal shrine and the downtown Srinagar. His first impression about Kashmir is that it is of great scenic beauty and attraction.
How has this visit of a high profile politician from PoK come into being? A few years ago it would be only a dream to find a leading political figure visiting Kashmir. After all there has been lot of bitterness and acrimony between two parts of Kashmir ever since partition and its aftermath. The fact of the matter is that there seems better understanding of ground situation in both sides of Kashmir and there seems new thinking evolving in the mind of how to address the issue. There can be no two opinions about confidence building measures as important pre-requisites for bridging the differences. And the people to people interaction is perhaps the best option to be recommended to consolidate confidence building process. We would welcome the process. We would welcome more people, leaders, businessmen, tourists and traders coming and going. We would appreciate if there is full flow of peoples’ movement across the LoC, in which case the LoC becomes redundant as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said a number of times. This will provide a good opportunity to people on both sides to remove various doubts and apprehensions that have got embedded into their mindset. Indian government’s goodwill and deep desire to improve relations with Pakistan is to be understood in its willingness to give visa to important personalities form PoK.
Sultan Mehmood is right in saying that violence and wars will not solve Kashmir issue nor will it help build cordial relationship between the two countries that have been at loggerheads for a long time. A solution has to be found through dialogue and through exchange of ideas, issues and problems. If that is the basics of a process of confidence building, then we can say other processes relevant to the situation should also flow in natural course. For example allowing the PoK soil to be used for terrorist camps, training camps and for infiltration into Kashmir is contrary to the very process of confidence building motion. The basic principle of confidence building is not to do or say anything that jeopardises the interests of the other party. Therefore we would like Sultan Mehmood, when back in Muzaffarbad or Mirpur, ask Pakistani authorities to wind up the training camps in PoK, dismantle their structures, stop sending Pakistani nationals as mercenaries and stop providing them logistical support for infiltration into Kashmir. How can confidence be built in reality if this nuisance is not ended? Therefore while welcoming Sultan Mehmood to the happy valley; we hope he will go back with the clear impression that jihadis coming from across the LoC should be stopped from infiltrating into Kashmir and inflicting atrocities on the innocent people in the valley and elsewhere. As a political leader with a strong constituency, he can make the move and take the initiative of thawing the rigid decision of exporting terror to Kashmir and to India. Secondly, he must recognize the validity of elections in J&K and the formation of elected government through constitutional process. This would grant legitimacy to the process on the other side of the LoC as well. By denouncing J&K government as stooges of New Delhi only wrong message is disseminated. It does not help understanding the situation on the ground. In other words Sultan Mehmood must also understand that there are not only the dissenters, separatists and secessionists who count in Kashmir. The large chunk of population that has voted the political parties to power cannot be ignored. We hope Sultan Mehmood will be honest enough to understand and explain the ground situation when he is back in home. His visit should induce more leaders from across the border to wish for a visit to our part of Kashmir to which they are welcome.